WASHINGTON, March 29, 2005—Authorities at China's prestigious Beijing University have effectively dismissed top media studies professor Jiao Guobiao after he penned a blistering attack on the ruling party's propaganda machine, which tightly controls the news industry.
"I haven't seen the official letter yet, but it has already been delivered to our house," Jiao, who is in the United States as a visiting scholar, told RFA's Mandarin service.
"It is being treated as a voluntary quitting of my post...It's not quite the same as being fired outright, but I don't really know what the difference is from an administrative point of view."
Jiao said the letter came following months of political persecution from the Chinese authorities in reaction to his article, "Crusade Against the Propaganda Department", which was circulated on the Internet last summer.
"At the beginning of last September, they stopped my classes. By the middle of the month they had stopped me acting as supervisor to graduate research students," Jiao said.
"Then publishing houses across China were banned from publishing my books, and the media was banned from publishing any articles by me. By the end of the year, I wasn't allowed to remain in the Journalism and Communication Studies School any more," he told RFA reporter Shen Hua.
"At the beginning of this year, they wouldn't let me leave the country. Really it's part of a whole program of persecution. If I didn't fight it, there was no knowing where it would end," Jiao said, adding that he had refused a suggested transfer to the university's Archive Research Center.
"I don't think I have done anything wrong," said Jiao, who arrived in Washington on March 16 at the invitation of the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy.
During his six-month stay, Jiao plans to carry out research into the Chinese news industry, past and present.
"If Chinese society really hasn't changed its attitudes towards freedom of expression, towards spiritual and ideological freedoms in the past 50-60 years, then this is unacceptable," he said.
While the authorities had succeeded in blocking Jiao's work fairly swiftly from Internet users in China, it had already gained a wide circulation in photocopy form, both among students at Beijing University (Beida) and among China's thousands of petitioners, pursuing complaints against official abuse of power, he said.
In the article, Jiao called the Propaganda Department, which closely controls all news coverage in China, 'a stumbling block to the civilized development of Chinese society'.
He said its actions had provided a helpful shelter for evil forces and corrupt officialdom. The department had become a bastion for the forces of ignorance and backwardness, the article said, calling for its abolition at every level of government.
China has invested billions of yuan in a nationwide Internet surveillance system, and manages to block Web sites it considers sensitive from most of its netizens.
Last summer, the authorities also closed a highly popular on-line bulletin board based out of the Beida campus, Yitahutu, causing outrage among staff and students alike.
"That was an awful thing to do," Jiao said. "They have upset a whole generation of students."
But he said that today's Beida students, while they had shown him personal support, were a different prospect politically from those who took to the streets calling for democracy in 1989.
"They were raised in captivity, so they haven't got a sense of whether they are free or not...But they tasted the difference when the BBS was shut down," he said.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Shen Hua. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Produced for the Web by the Mandarin Web team and in English by Luisetta Mudie.